It was a simple enough death. An older man, Christopher
Drayton, falls off a cliff on the Scarborough Bluffs near
his home. Sergeant Rachel Getty wonders why they are
called to investigate it. Is it an accident or not? She
has a solid working relationship with her boss, Esa
Khartak, head of Canada's Community Policing Services and
he is never this evasive. What is going on?
Her first clue comes as they investigate the murdered
man's expensive home. In his study, they find unusual
clues that seem to have no discernible pattern. Still,
it is clear Christopher Drayton is not the man his
identiy says he is.
As they interview others, they sense an underlying
connection, yet they just can't fit the puzzling pieces
together. What are they missing? Esa is still less
forthcoming than normal, what is happening with him? For
her own self, Rachel doesn't mind the strange case as her
home life is problematic. Her brother couldn't take any
more of it and has been long gone. Rachel's heart aches
to find him, but what would her Dad do if he did return?
Deeply interwoven throughout this intriguing homicide
investigation in THE UNQUIET DEAD are stories and
memories of the brutality and suffering in the war in
Bosnia as thousands of men and children were ruthlessly
killed, hundreds of women herded into barbaric rape
camps, and the absolute failure of the United Nations as
they failed to protect civilians in their own "designated
safe" zones resulting in the horror and massacre of
Srebrenica in 1995.
THE UNQUIET DEAD is a totally captivating and intelligent
novel written by debut author Ausma Zehanat Khan, a
British-born Canadian, now living in the United States.
With her strong research skills and impressive background
(Ph.D.) in International Human Rights with a
specialization in military intervention and war crimes in
Given this background, Khan effectively balances bringing
in authentic information about the horrors and barbaric
treatment of the Bosnian Muslims and the impact it had on
those who survived within a suspenseful and complex plot
development. Khan does this with a graceful style so the
reader feels the haunting of the heart from so many
deaths, yet is not overwhelmed by it. For those wanting
more information, she has included references in her
Author's Notes at the end of the book. Counterbalancing
the huge loss and grieving from the many deaths in the
war, Khan also portrays individual situations of loss and
grief experienced by the more contemporary characters,
such as Rachel's yearning for her brother, the loss of
friendship between Esa and his boyhood friend, Nathan
Clare and the young daughters missing their Dad.
The two main protagonists in the story, Rachel and Esa,
are a great team. They both work well together and
respect each other, but hold their dark secrets and fears
tight to their chests. So as they reveal more about
themselves to each other, Khan has us learning more about
them as the investigation continues.
I am so glad to learn from Khan's website that another
book is coming. I hope this develops into a very
interesting series. There is great potential there as
not all the issues and small tensions between Rachel and
Esa have been fully resolved in this story, yet, enough
for it to be a great stand-alone mystery as well.
Esa is a very complex character and yet, I quickly warmed
to him and really enjoy him as a protagonist, despite
some of his actions (To explain more would give away too
much of the plot.). Esa and Rachel have completely
different backgrounds as Rachel quickly gathers when she
meets Esa's friend Nathan. Her own background has been
much poorer; not only in wealth, but also in emotional
spirit due to issues of abuse. Yet, she is sharp and
observant and relentless in determination and is very
likeable. Secondary characters in THE UNQUIET DEAD also
come vividly to life and are quite an interesting mix.
My only quibble is that some of the female non-Bosnian
characters, especially Drayton's girlfriend, tend to be
somewhat one-dimensional and stereotypical.
I fully enjoyed the first rate reading experience of THE
UNQUIET DEAD. IT is a very well-written mystery with a
unique and important storyline. Khan definitely will
keep you turning pages as fast as you can to find out
what happens while the images of the ethnic cleansing,
rapes and killings with burn and resonate in your heart
and mind long afterwards. Yet, THE UNQUIET DEAD also
holds out the candles of hope, reconciliation and
Given the situation in the world today, THE UNQUIET DEAD
is an important book to read and I would highly recommend
it to any reader. People who like political, police
procedural or mystery novels will particularly relish THE
UNQUIET DEAD. It would also make for very interesting
discussions for those readers in a book club. Do check it
out and hear what the souls of THE UNQUIET DEAD are
Despite their many differences, Detective Rachel Getty
trusts her boss, Esa Khattak, implicitly. But sheâ€™s still
uneasy at Khattakâ€™s tight-lipped secrecy when he asks her
look into Christopher Draytonâ€™s death. Draytonâ€™s
accidental fall from a cliff doesnâ€™t seem to warrant a
police investigation, particularly not from Rachel and
Khattakâ€™s team, which handles minority-sensitive cases.
when she learns that Drayton may have been living under an
assumed name, Rachel begins to understand why Khattak is
tip-toeing around this case. It soon comes to light that
Drayton may have been a war criminal with ties to the
Srebrenica massacre of 1995.
If thatâ€™s true, any number of people might have had reason
to help Drayton to his death, and a murder investigation
could have far-reaching ripples throughout the community.
But as Rachel and Khattak dig deeper into the life and
of Christopher Drayton, every question seems to lead only
more questions, with no easy answers. Had the specters of
Srebrenica returned to haunt Drayton at the end, or had he
been keeping secrets of an entirely different nature? Or,
after all, did a man just fall to his death from the
In her spellbinding debut, Ausma Zehanat Khan has written
complex and provocative story of loss, redemption, and the
cost of justice that will linger with readers long after
turning the final page.